Every writer has their own strengths and weaknesses. Some are strong in grammar. Some are guilty of “showing” so much that they don't move the story along. Others don't give enough description. The more you write and get feedback from others, the more you will figure out what you need to work on to become a better writer. Here are three mistakes beginning and even experienced writers often make. I know I catch myself being guilty of these.
- Spell-check Software vs Editing: Many believe a quick run of spell-check will catch all of their spelling and grammatical errors and quickly polish their piece for reader consumption. Think about this: does spell-check catch the difference between their, there, and they're? Simple mistakes or misspellings are not identified with basic spell-check programs. You need to edit! Read your work silently at least three times to identify spelling and grammatical errors. Read it out loud to identify the flow of your work. How does it sound to the reader? You wouldn't believe the difference it makes to hear your work out loud. Not only is it important to edit for errors, it's important to edit for clarity, flow, and readability. You'll catch sentences that are full of filler. You'll catch sentences that stumble through to the end. Lesson learned: Edit!
- Using Clichés: As a reader, how many times do you read the same metaphors over and over again? Be creative with your descriptions, metaphors, etc. I try to avoid clichés in my work unless I absolutely cannot think of something better. If you have to, use them initially, but when you go back to edit, change to something more creative. You'll be amazed at the things you can come up with if you just put in some effort. Believe me, readers will appreciate it.
- Wordiness!: When you put too much in a sentence, readers will stray and have a hard time following it. For my final in my Place & Setting course this semester, we had to revise two of our major creative writing pieces in the class. When I went back today to revise my very first assignment, I completely agreed with my professor that some of my sentences were over the top. You can convey the same feelings, descriptions, or ideas in simple ways that do not lose your reader.